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It was the kind of holiday I always wanted and could never have had at home. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For years, Christmas was a taboo word in our home. As Hindus, my father didn’t think we should have trees or recognize holidays. It was when I picked up the Christmas tree that had been put out and put it up in the early hours of Christmas morning when Santa was supposed to make his rounds.
Likewise, Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and my father did not believe Indian Americans should celebrate it. But as a kid making cornucopia and construction paper turkeys at school, all I wanted was turkey, pecan pie, and a Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
The closest I’ve ever been to a holiday meal like the one my other kids talk about was at a family friend’s house. Everyone else had the turkey and we had the vegetarian lasagna.
While in college, I regularly skipped vacations spent at home, choosing instead to spend time with friends and their families. is possible.
In college, it was my weight that mattered. Going home meant hearing that I was so fat, unloved and destined to be alone. You no longer have to hear about an approaching expiration date. This conversation started when I was 21.
Not coming home for the holidays meant I didn’t have to hear about how I wasted my life and about the awful traditional men my dad was trying to meet on my behalf online. One of the men told me in our family’s native language that he wanted his wife to go to his village in India and take care of his aging parents while he was in the United States. I did.
Over the years, I skipped going home to collect my holiday paycheck at work and planned my vacations to make the most of my limited paid time off. Two weeks isn’t that long if you’re an avid traveler who prefers far-flung destinations or an Indian American who must travel at least 24 hours each way to visit relatives in India.
A few times, I have chosen to see the Macy’s parade in person in New York.
Spent another Thanksgiving in Porto, Portugal with new friends from Lisbon a few days ago. We spent the day tasting port wine and wandering through charming European cities. We shared a delicious multi-course meal complete with wine, champagne and port for under $100.
It was exactly the Thanksgiving I needed that year, and the gift of gratitude I gave myself.
Meena Thiruvengadam A Chicago-based journalist who specializes in writing travelogues and advising newsrooms on digital strategy.